Guilt vs. Shame

2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Guilt and shame. There’s a huge difference. Guilt is the feeling we get when we’ve done something wrong and we know it. Shame is a feeling that we are fundamentally broken and unworthy. Guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad. Guilt and shame can both lead to changed behavior, but not with the same results.

The message of Christ tells us we’re all sinners in need of God’s saving grace. But this fundamental truth can get twisted into a harmful, shame-based approach to religion and life. Jesus never shamed anyone. In fact he took shame away from those who were most vulnerable – scandalous women, Samaritans, tax collectors, disabled people, etc.

Luke tells us about when Peter first experienced the divine power of Jesus. He fell to his knees and begged Jesus to leave because Peter knew how sinful and unworthy he was. Jesus reassured him and commissioned him to be a “fisher of men.”

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee, at the top of the religious food chain based on legalism and shame, thanked God he was not a sinner like the tax collector. The tax collector, however, thanked God for having mercy on him – a sinner.

Feeling sorrow for our sinfulness is normal in light of God’s holiness. But we serve a God who takes our sin and shame upon himself, offering us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He never shames us. He never rubs our mistakes in our faces. The world thinks shame and “cancel culture” will lead to a more equitable place to live. But the kingdom of heaven is based on grace, not shame. Shame only makes things worse for everyone. Only Godly sorrow leads to a truly transformed life.

Neither do I condemn you. Now go and leave your life of sin.

Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.

The Ten Broken Commandments, pt 2

In the previous post we looked at ways in which we American Christians have broken the first four of the Ten Commandments that we claim to live by. Granted, we don’t exactly live under the Jewish Torah and Covenant. But Jesus actually holds us to a higher standard, not a lower one. He summarized all the Law and the Prophets into these Two Commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. The first four of the Ten Commandments regard the first and greatest command. The last six guide our relationships with others. Love God. Love others.

But how good of a job have we done with even those two commands? Not very well when the words non-Christians use to describe us include judgmental, arrogant, too political, hateful, homophobic, hypocritical, and so on. Jesus said people will know we are his disciples by our love. Not by our slogans or open letters or bumper stickers or political affiliation.

If we want to make a difference, if we want to make a change, then we have to get back to the basics. We have to relearn what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have to be real and honest about the ways we’ve gotten it wrong. And we have to repent – not just saying “I’m sorry,” but truly changing our actions and attitudes.

Continue reading → The Ten Broken Commandments, pt 2

The Ten Broken Commandments, part 1

There’s a story in the gospels about a young man who came up to Jesus and asked the question most of us want to know at some point: “What must I do to be saved?” I don’t want to get into the different things we could mean by “saved,” but most of us want to know the answer. Jesus tells him, basically, keep the commandments – specifically the all too familiar 10 Commandments. The man’s response? “All these I have kept since my youth.”

Jesus goes on to challenge this self-righteous notion of perfect adherence to the Law by telling him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. He can’t do it because he was very wealthy. In that one response, Jesus exposes our misunderstanding of what the 10 Commandments are really there for.

Continue reading → The Ten Broken Commandments, part 1

!ADVENT: For the Love

This is the fourth and final week of Advent 2020. Can you feel it? Christmas is right around the corner. It’s probably going to look different for many of us than we are used to. But that’s ok. Because Christmas isn’t ultimately about getting what we want. It’s a celebration of the love God showed for us by coming down to be with us, to be one of us. As the song says, “Fullness of God in helpless babe.”

Throughout the centuries mankind has been trying to get to be where God is through various forms of religious rituals, practices, and beliefs. There are those who say, “All paths lead to God.” But the incarnation, the Christmas story, shows us that we have sorely missed the point. God doesn’t demand that we find a path that leads us to him. He has already come to be with us! That’s what Immanuel means – God with us.

Continue reading → !ADVENT: For the Love

Advent: Perfect Peace

This Advent season, the Lawrence County Youth Network is teaming together to bring you weekly videos, discussion questions, and an overview podcast. Each week we will be reflecting on one of the main themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

What do you think of when you think about Peace? Is it a cozy winter day reading a book and drinking hot chocolate under your sherpa-lined blanket? Is it binging Netflix with no other responsibilities to worry about? Is it your parents finally getting along, or at least pretending to? Is it the end to a military conflict overseas?

I would think for most of us, Peace means a sense that all is right in the world – or at least in our world. Let’s think about Peace as we begin. This first video is one of my favorite Christmas songs by Peter Hollens, called “December Song.”


Peace that Surpasses Understanding

In this week’s teaching video, Gabe Garcia from Mt. Pleasant Christian Church brings us a message about Peace. Check it out, and then spend some time working through the discussion questions below.

Continue reading → Advent: Perfect Peace

HOPE: Divine Expectation

hope marquee signage surrounded by trees

This first week of Advent we focused on the idea of HOPE. When we talk about hope in relation to faith in Christ and as it is used in Scripture, it’s more than tossing coin in the proverbial wishing well. Hope is something we are sure is going to happen, but it can only happen if and when God moves. Sometimes the word for hope is translated as waiting. Those who hope in (or wait upon) the Lord shall renew their strength, says Isaiah.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my previous post with all the teaching materials and videos on Hope as presented by the Lawrence County Youth Network. But right now I want to take a little time and answer these discussion questions for myself. If you’re feeling up to it, let me know how you would answer these questions by leaving a comment below.

Continue reading → HOPE: Divine Expectation